The poinsettia plant is also known as the Mexican flame leaf or Christmas star and it’s a festive season staple in homes and gardens around South Africa.
Poinsettia plants are traditionally associated with Christmas. Their red foliage is commonly mistaken for a flower but actually, they are coloured bracts, and you can even get poinsettias with white bracts. The actual flower is the yellow in the centre of the bracts.
The legend of the poinsettia dates back to 16th century Mexico and tells of a young girl who was too poor to provide a gift for the celebration of Jesus’ birthday. An angel appeared and inspired her to gather weeds from the roadside and to place these in front of the church’s altar. Crimson ‘blossoms’ sprouted from the weeds and grew to become beautiful poinsettias.
In South Africa, poinsettias are a common garden plant that flowers during winter. Potted varieties are specifically grown for the festive season and are available in a variety of intense colours, so don’t be surprised if the poinsettia plant in your garden doesn’t flower over Christmas. The plant is synonymous with the upcoming holiday season and makes a bright, bold statement that will last for months!
How to look after your poinsettia plant
- Position the plant in bright light during winter. The plant must be protected from the hot summer sun if it is to flower again.
- Only water when its soil is dry to the touch and water until the water seeps out the bottom of the drainage holes. Empty the water that accumulates in the drip pan that holds the pot as they do not like to sit in water
- Fertilise your poinsettia plant weekly from mid spring to end of summer.
- After the leaves have fallen off the poinsettia, it can be planted outside in the garden and will naturally flower in the winter.